Land reforms and revenue minister Ramai Ram is unhappy even though the JD(U) supported the land bill in Parliament on Thursday.
“Land is on the state list. The Centre does not have the right to pass a bill on it. It could have given a direction to the states,” he said, stressing that the bill was passed because it was an election year. “Had they been serious about safeguarding the interests of farmers, they could have saved the farmers of Noida and Gurgaon,” he said.
The minister insisted that the Centre should have taken the views of the states and parties concerned before moving a bill. If this bill is accepted in Bihar, it could turn into a problem for the minister, as his department would be expected to acquire land for building schools, hospitals and police stations. “It will make our job more difficult. We will have to find a way to get land for government work,” said Ram.
The most important feature of the bill is that it requires developers to get the consent of up to 80 per cent of people whose land is acquired for private projects. For public-private partnerships, the approval of 70 per cent of landowners is mandatory.
The proposal asks for compensation of up to four times the market value of land in rural areas and two times the value in urban parts.
The passing of the bill has already inspired hope in the hearts of farmers agitating for greater compensation for land acquired for the Nabinagar power project, a joint venture of National Thermal Power Corporation and Bihar Power Holding Company. “We are waiting for the details of the bill to find out if it benefits us,” said Arun Singh, who leads the Visthapit Kishan Majdoor Kalyan Samiti. Singh’s eight acres were acquired for the Nabinagar thermal project.
“The full and final payment was just Rs 5 lakh. After our struggle, the amount was made Rs 22 lakh,” he said.
Investors fear that the industry would be next to impossible in Bihar. Several investors have backed out failing to acquire land. “If I need 100 acres, I would have to negotiate with 200 persons claiming to have rights over the land. Another problem is that people claiming to be land owners in Bihar do not even have proper documents,” said an investor, recalling his frustration when he went to buy land for his project. Satyajit Singh, the president of the Bihar chapter of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “Industrialists of developed states like Maharashtra would be able to absorb this cost but states, where industrialisation is in nascent stage, would find it costly to pay the price.”